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Album Review

Paysage d’Hiver – “Kerker” – [Kunsthall Produktionen]

atavist   8/31/2019   12-inch, A Library

The genre of Paysage d’Hiver according to The Metal Archives: Black Metal, Ambient. Paysage d’Hiver is Winter Landscape in French, and as the project is based in Switzerland, the album title, track titles, and lyrics are in German. This release, Kerker, or Prison, was originally released in 1999, and Kunsthall Produktionen has re-released it 20 years later on vinyl with fine packaging. This recording warrants a 20th anniversary. Painted with a seemingly limited palette, the arrangement of these spare elements combine to suggest a story over the course of four tracks. Elements contrast each other and occupy different sonic regions so that they are clearly discernible. It’s at once despairing and beautiful, primarily a richly textured dark ambient piece, with the last track being the closest to conventional black metal; even so, the sounds throughout are much rounder than the grit and abrasion of the most caustic black metal recordings.

A1. “Depth”. In the rumblings, the stirrings of monolithic subterranean beasts who walk in the endless night, disturbing slumbering caverns. Finally, guitar sounds resolve. Is this a ray of light in this dread catacomb? When it falls into naught, the beasts prowl undaunted. This first track blends into the second…
A2. “Steps” …which starts with a new percussive element. Their dark works accelerate unimpeded. Synths build. Glimmers of light, ephemeral, beauty has returned to do battle with the dark beasts. Guitar returns to cry into the darkness, mournful, all is lost. But the rhythmic machine passes. The beasts and the light, flickering, remain. At the conclusion, a voice emerges, confused? Tormented? Rumblings like wind, an ether, a permeating medium through which souls pass. A slow fade to oblivion leads to an abrupt end.
B1. “Shadow”. The rumblings return. Here, little alters this minimal landscape for some time, and new patterns emerge only gradually. Pulses punctuate the rumbles. Ethereal light glimmers in the unrelenting dark. That voice returns, to be overwhelmed by a new malevolence…
B2. “(Passage/Course)” …a master of darkness. In this concluding track, a driving drum machine is buried in the din of the guitar. Still the glimmering light of the synth flitters across the surface while the beastly voice prowls the sonic depths. Guitar and drums cut through the middle. It’s like the beast and the light are in the room with you an the guitar and drums are heard through a wall. The lyrics might mean, “Is this the life course? Immersed in my inner self, I am bound in the time of the universe, I go the slender course about the knowledge of the shadows”. A satisfying dissolution provides a conclusion.

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